George Shelley
George Shelley should be allowed to live the life he wants, without the labelling of the ignorantGetty Images

X-Factor alumni and doe-eyed Union J singer George Shelley is out and proud. And he's shunning the "old fashioned" labels of gay, bi and straight. And more power to him: gender is a spectrum, love is fluid and policing someone's identity in 2016 is about as embarrassing as being caught listening to Artpop.

Not that any of that matters to The Sun Showbiz Editor and chronically obtuse Twitter presence Dan Wootton, who had this to say about Shelley's (despite being 2016, still very brave) coming out:

"George Shelley's done a Tom Daley and come out as bisexual, something that's long been known in the showbiz industry". He also tweeted:

It takes a special kind of arrogance to watch Shelley's video and still have the audacity to call him bi. It's an insidious, repellent little act that undermines the most powerful part of the whole coming out process – self-definition.

Gays and lesbians have had a long-running problem with the people in our community who are attracted to more than one gender. A bisexual man is "gay and in denial". The woman who's had boyfriends but is attracted to women is "just doing it for attention". We project our own insecurities onto bisexuals, pansexuals and those who, like Shelley, shun labels all together.

And in doing so we commit the same violence on our LGBT+ siblings that straight people have done to us – after all, who in our community can say they've never heard "it's just a phase, you're not really gay, you're just confused" and been left furious at having their identity reduced to some sort of whim?

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Trans and bisexual writer Sean Faye believes the reason for this is rooted in our unconscious bias towards men: "The most general experience of anyone attracted to more than one gender is the assumption that we are "really" attracted to men. Because men must be the most truly desirable option. Some lesbians therefore dismiss bi women, and gay guys simply refuse to believe a male bisexual exists. Often it's easier not to discuss your bisexuality because gay people feel it's something they get to question you on and joke about."

The "joke" Dan Wootton attempts to make is as old as the hills and highlights perfectly how gay men can and do undermine people who are attracted to more than one gender. He refers to doing a Tom Daley, who insisted on his attraction to men and women before declaring himself "a gay man now" and engaging his partner. It seems aimed at suggesting that Shelley's more fluid sexuality is a temporary measure until he comes out as gay, and refers to the tired cliché that bi men are "bi now, gay later", and ultimately deceiving both themselves and those around them.

Of course, Shelley may find himself attracted to just one gender in the future. Or he may continue to live without labels. Whatever his identity, as labels become less rigid across the board, hopefully our desire to undermine and redefine sexualities that are more alien to us becomes will dissipate. But that'll only happen if we continue to call out disparaging remarks – and begin embracing every single person in the LGBT+ community.

There's no doubt that comments like Wootton's make it harder for people who are questioning their sexuality. The fear that someone outside our community will mock us is sadly expected. But ridicule from within can be even more isolating – where do you turn when the people who are supposed to understand you don't? But luckily, for every critic, there's someone like George Shelley making the brave decision to live authentically in a world that's still learning to accept LGBT+ people; and in doing so helping others to come out.

So George, congratulations, welcome to the crew. And like George said:

"I'm still me, I'm still the same person I've always been, but like I said, I'm just becoming a little bit less scared of being myself, and that makes me quite happy."


Josh Lee is a freelance writer covering LGBT issues and pop culture